Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Price for Red Meat

The National Cancer Institute recently released findings from the largest study ever linking meat consumption and mortality, which should convince even the most enthusiastic carnivores to cut back. The more red and processed meats consumed, the greater the risk of heart disease and cancer. Just by consuming 5 oz. /day (about 1 1/2 Big Macs/day) increases the risk by 30%. The strongest evidence is for colorectal cancer. What scientists call N-nitroso compounds can be carcinogenic. They appear to form in the digestive tract when heme iron (the type in red meat) and intestinal bacteria trigger meat protein to combine with the nitrites that are added to processed meats, AND/OR with the nitrites that the body makes from the naturally occurring nitrates in water and in some vegetables. And some people have bacteria that produce far more N-nitroso compounds than others. Such mutagens can also damage more than the gutt. Once the mutagens get into the blood, they can act at any site. Prostate cancer was increased by 40% in men who consumed one third of an ounce of well done red meat a day. Pancreatic cancer increases by 40-50% for men. A nine year study found a 38% increase in incidences of Type II diabetes in women who ate processed meat at least 5 times per week. It is believed that the nitrites may be damaging the islet (insulin producing) cells of the pancreas. As with colorectal cancer, the heme iron may be partly to blame. The adverse effect of red meat consumption is related to it's high iron content, which can also damage islet cells of the pancreas. The non-heme iron in grains and vegetables is not a problem, since heme iron is more "bioavailable;" and the body continues to absorb it even if we don't need it. It tends to override the regulatory mechanism, which does not happen with non-heme iron.
The NCI's recommendation is to reduce consumption of red and processed meats to one serving a week (about 4 oz.). Replace red meat with poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and soy based "veggie meats." Look for deli meats that are nitrite free.
  • Red meats: Beef, pork, steak, hamburgers, foods made with meat (lasagna, stew) and processed meats made with red meat (beef hot dogs, beef bologna). Yes, pork is a red meat, and not "the other white meat" as the industry claims. (Just an other successfull slogan/snow job!)
  • White meats: Chicken, turkey, fish, and processed white meats (hot dogs, sausage, and deli meats made from poultry).
  • Processed meats: Bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni, "loaf" type deli meats, chipped ham, hot dogs, whether made with red or white meat.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Factory Beef Farming = Environmental Disaster

The dark shadow of the American food system as reported by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization is the consequences of the huge and crowded feedlots in which most cattle and virtually all hogs spend their lives. The most obvious problem (especially if you live downwind) is the manure. The excrement pollutes the air, and contaminates recreational lakes, rivers, and farm irrigation systems with E. coli. The E. coli is finding it's way into our vegetable crops. The large amounts of fertilizer for the corn and cattle feed crops wash into streams that empty into the Gulf of Mexico, creating oxygen deficient dead zones. The methane produced by even the organic, grass fed variety is a greenhouse gas 25 times more destructive to the ozone than carbon dioxide. It is estimated that livestock are responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. That's more than the emission from transportation; not including the environmental cost of producing and packaging feeds for livestock, shipping them, and so on. So, if avoiding early death from the over-consumption of red meat doesn't persuade you to eat less, the environmental consequences should be convincing enough.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prostate Health News

New studies show that high doses of folic acid may raise the risk of prostate cancer. A 10 year study performed on 643 men taking 1000 mcg of folic acid to show if the B vitamin could prevent the occurrence of precancerous colon polyps, instead revealed a 10% increase in the incidence of prostate cancer. Though the study can be considered inconclusive due to the size of the group, it doesn't hurt to play it safe while additional studies continue.
What to do? If you take a multivitamin containing 400 mcg (100% of the daily value), take only one every-other day. Also, watch for fortified breakfast cereals (should contain no more than 25% of the daily value). For more information on folate fortified foods, refere to the article on Breast Cancer & Folate from Oct. 2009 archives. There's no need to limit fruits and vegetables and other folate rich foods.
~National Cancer Institute, 2009~

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prostate Cancer Prevention: What Works & What May Harm

Evidence based reports from studies that look at healthy men as well as those who already have cancer. Here is what may harm:
  • Selenium. The National Cancer Institute found that those taking selenium (200mcg/day) and Vit. E (400 had no lower risk of prostate cancer. However, in the same study, the incidence of diabetes rose slightly. It was also discovered, that men with the variant genotype "V" (which includes about 75% of the men in this country) high levels of blood selenium were linked to a higher risk of aggressive cancer.
  • Vitamin E. Until recently, vit. E was a potential friend to the prostate. Now it is a possible foe. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant at dietary levels (provided by diet). At high doses, it becomes an oxidant (causes cell damage). In trials where men took supplemental doses of 400-600 IU/day, had no higher risk than those receiving a placebo.
  • Calcium & Dairy. In several studies, the highest prostate cancer risk was seen in people who were taking a calcium supplement in addition to calcium fortified and/or calcium rich foods, (intakes of over 1500-2000mg/day). Until scientists know more, it's probably best to avoid excess. Calcium is added to everything from orange juice to antacids, and people may be getting much more than they realize.
  • Vitamin D. Most studies find no link between blood levels of vit. D and prostate or colon cancer. As of yet, there aren't enough large studies with blood levels to look at. Don't fall for the Men's Multivitamin claims.
  • Obesity. The Cancer Prevention Study II tracked 70,000 men for 10 years. The risk of fatal or metatastic prostate cancer was 54% higher in those who were obese, than those who were normal weight. Just one more reason to stay lean and active.
  • Meat. In a study of 29,000 men, those who averaged at least 2 1/2 oz. of very well done meat/week showed a 40% higher risk of prostate cancer those those who ate no well-done meat.
  • Zinc. In one study, men who got more than 100mg./day of zinc from supplements had double the risk of advanced prostate cancer, compared to men who didn't take zinc supplements. Also, in an other trial where men were given 80mg./day of zinc to see if it could reduce the risk of eye disease, the zinc takers were more likely to be hospitalized for genito-urinary complications enlarged prostate, UTI, kidney stones) than those who took no zinc.
Things that may help:
  • Tomatoes & Lycopene. In a study that tracked 137,000 men for 6 years, those who had the highest levels of blood lycopene were 60% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Whether it's lycopene or something else in tomato products, it doesn't hurt to include them in your daily vegetable consumption.
  • Flaxseed. It is believed that the estrogen-like compounds might protect the prostate. Flax seed has also been extinct from the American diet for over a century, and the occurrence of prostate cancer has been rising. A tablespoon a day is the recommended dose until further studies to it's safety are conducted.
  • Green Tea. The extract polyphenon E is the focus for the latest research and controversy. The National Cancer Institute bought a large amount of it hoping to get FDA approval as a prescription drug, so there is little for anyone else to study at this time. An earlier study of 50,000 Japanese men who drank at least 5 cups of green tea/day showed a 50% lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Soy. Clinical studies that gave men soy foods or isoflavinoids to treat prostate cancer haven't had great success, though after tracking 82,000 men who ate more soy foods showed a lower risk of developing the disease. More studies are underway.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your odds of surviving 10 years are roughly 93%, and death rates have dropped since 1990. You are more likely to die with prostate cancer than from it. Being older than 50 is the main risk factor for prostate cancer. Men whose families carry the gene changes that cause breast cancer, BRCA1 or BRCA2, are thought to be at increased risk for prostate cancer. For more information about prostate cancer go to